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Court of Appeals finds parents unfit, affirms termination of parental rights

September 26, 2016

The Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed Monday a decision to terminate parental rights after both parents failed to show evidence that allowing them to maintain their rights would be in the best interest of the children.

T.B. was born to the mother and father in 2009, then the mother gave birth to a second child, R.K., who had a different father who is now deceased, in 2010. After being convicted of multiple drug charges, the mother was incarcerated in 2013 and has not seen the children since. T.B. and R.K. were placed in the father’s care shortly thereafter.

After father reached out to the Department of Child Services for help in 2014, the department filed a children in need of services petition on behalf of T.B. and R.K. — as well as the father’s two older children — and the court found that the children could remain in the father’s care as long as a safety plan was developed.

A well-child check in May 2014 found R.K. with second-degree burns on his feet, which prompted his and T.B.’s removal from the home and placement in foster care. The children were subsequently adjudicated CHINS, and the father was ordered to participate in visitation, Fatherhood Engagement and individual therapy.

However, father was often vocal about his distrust of DCS and refused to participate in the department’s services. The mother was limited in her ability to participate in DCS services due to her incarceration.

In February 2016, the Tippecanoe Superior Court entered an order terminating the mother’ s parental rights to T.B. and R.K. and the father’s parental rights to T.B., prompting both parents to appeal.

Father argued that the trial court deprived him of due process when it terminated his telephonic participation during the second day of his termination hearing.

However, in its Monday opinion, A.B. & T.B. v. The Indiana Department of Child Services, 79A05-1602-JT-354, the Court of Appeals noted that when the father was allowed telephonic participation, he interrupted the court proceedings and did not heed warnings to stop. The father used the telephone participation to engage in profanity-laced rants against DCS, which prompted the trial court to end his participation. The court offered to let the father participate in person, but he refused.

The father was given the fundamental due process requirement of having the opportunity to be heard in court, but rejected that opportunity, the Court of Appeals wrote. Thus, he was not denied due process.

In her appeal of the termination of her parental rights, the mother argued that there was not sufficient evidence to support the termination of her rights to both children.

But the Court of Appeals wrote that at the time of the termination hearing, which ended in November 2015, it was not clear that her release date would be imminent. At the final hearing, the record indicated that her release would be July 2018.

Further, the Court of Appeals wrote that after her release, the mother would be on probation for five years and that she had violated probation multiple times in the past. Additionally, the court said that the mother’s most serious crimes were committed after she gave birth to T.B. and R.K., which showed that allowing her to raise them would place them in danger.

Thus, the Court of Appeals found that it would be in the best interest of the children to be placed in permanent and stable care that the mother could not provide, prompting the affirmation of the termination of her parental rights.
 

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